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Merits Of New Carlsbad Power Plant To Be Debated

Aired 12/12/11 on KPBS News.

The California Energy Commission is holding a hearing on whether a company can build a new power plant on a scenic Carlsbad lagoon - and whether it should remove the old one.

Encina Power Station in Carlsbad
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Above: Encina Power Station in Carlsbad

Anyone who has driven north on Interstate 5 has likely seen the huge chimney of the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad, on the edge of a coastal lagoon.

The company that owns the plant, NRG Energy, wants to build a new, air-cooled, gas- and steam-powered turbine right next to it.

Kristina Ray, with the City of Carlsbad, says there are better places to put it.

“Why would you want to put an air cooled power plant on the coast,” she asked,“ when these more modern power plants can be built in other, more appropriate industrial locations?”

Ray said the city has alternative locations for a new power plant, though she was unsure how the land would be acquired. The land the Encino power plant sits on, which overlooks the ocean, belongs to the power company. However, the city has changed its zoning laws to make a power plant an incompatible use.

Paul Kramer with the Energy Commission said the energy supply is changing and there are new questions to consider before allowing the project to go ahead. SDG &E has made no contract to use the energy from the new plant in San Diego, and the electricity would likely be used elsewhere.

“There’s been a lot of controversy about whether this project is needed to make the electrical system work properly and be reliable.” Kramer said, “And the committee proposed some conditions that would require this project to plan for the removal of the old project."

Kramer said when the old Encina plant was built, there were no state laws requiring the company to tear it down when it was outdated. One condition of building a new plant might be to start removing the old one.

The commission will hear from energy providers and regulators today, and get the public’s perspective this evening.

A final decision, which has has been years in the making, is expected sometime next year.

Energy Commission of Calif.: Carlsbad Power Plants

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Avatar for user 'wlekas'

wlekas | December 13, 2011 at 10:05 a.m. ― 5 years, 3 months ago

They have been fighting over the plant for awhile now and they keep going over the same issues. So nothing has really changed. The overriding reason for building the new plant there is that the site and the infrastructure are all there now. To move the plant to another location would entail moving all the infrastructure to another location which by itself is a costly project.

Does the City of Carlsbad want to pay for the infrastructure move? The site that I have heard about is next to an Oceanside development so then there would have to be buy-in from that development as well as Oceanside to use that area. There would have to be power lines built to access the electricity. Gas lines built to supply fuel. What are the chances of that? And the plant has been on the coast from the beginning and all that is there already.

We have peaker plants in San Diego County as well as the 20% of San Onofre. We buy power from Arizona, Nevada, Mexico and other areas but we have little "in basin" generation. We need to have resources here in the county in the event of some catastrophic failure from our suppliers (remember Arizona recently). When the grid goes down it is not simply resetting switches . . . it takes time to do that. There are 15,300 PV installations in the county and when the power went down . . . so did they.

In summary, we need local power generation and they have to built somewhere. How much more do we have to pay to put it where no one will have an issue?

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